SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — From the kitchen table to the mail, the U.S. Postal Service on Thursday recognized the influence of Latino foods and flavors on American cuisine with the release of a new series of stamps.
The dedication ceremony for the Delicioso Forever Stamps was being held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque.
The stamps feature bright illustrations of tamales, flan, empanadas, chile rellenos, ceviche and the traditional soup sancocho.
Award-winning illustrator John Parra, known for his Latino-themed children's books, said in an interview that it was an honor to work on the project. For him, each stamp brings back memories of the meals shared with family while growing up in California.
Parra's father is Mexican and his aunts were known for their cooking, particularly tamales. And Parra was never one to turn down flan, a traditional custard dessert.
An important part of Latino culture, many dishes and flavors have moved into the mainstream. Salsa overtook ketchup as a top condiment years ago, tortilla chips typically outsell potato chips, and tacos and burritos have become American staples.
"It doesn't matter what your background is. Everybody loves the food," Parra said, before sitting down at one of Albuquerque's popular New Mexican restaurants for a green-chile infused lunch.
"It's such a universal food for everybody now," he said. "And it's a great way to connect with people. Food is such a universal language."
The Postal Service approached Parra about two years ago with the idea of focusing on popular dishes from Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. The list was eventually whittled down to six that would translate well to the limited real estate of a postage stamp.
Parra called them tiny works of art, saying he was thrilled to have the chance to design a stamp.
It took several months to create the images. Each illustration was made by applying multiple layers of acrylic paint to textured boards. Parra then used sandpaper to reveal the layers and give the designs a vintage look.
Parra's Latino roots and the influences of Mexican murals and folk art have provided a colorful palatte for his work over the years. His next children's book, "Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos," is due out later this year.